How much do cookies cost? About £500,000...
Now, I love a chocolate chip cookie as much as the next girl- looking at my waistline, possibly more, but half a million quid? Better be a big one.
Oh, internet cookies. Right.
For once, Europe is doing us poor consumers a favour, with changes required by the new European Union Electronic Communications Framework meaning that websites guilty of using technologies to track a user's browsing behaviour without their consent or sending unwanted marketing emails to consumers could face a fine of up to £500,000 according to Which!
The Information Commissioners' Office (ICO) gets these lovely new e-privacy powers on 25th May so website owners had better beware.
Currently, lots of sites track your web browsing behaviour- ever wondered how those Hotmail ads know you need Viagra? Or how Facebook suggests you need to go to AA before you even admit you’ve got a problem? However, rather than lose potentially lucrative advertising revenue, it is likely that permission to track you will be built into any terms and conditions of use. However, casual browsing of sites (yes, even those sort of sites) where you do not register or tick one of those boxes to lie and say you have read all 705 pages of terms and conditions should now be protected.
Similarly, spam unrequested email or digital marketing is already covered by the existing regulations, although the maximum fine is currently a measly £5,000, and all e-communications are required to have an opt-out. However, those naughty chappies who send you emails purporting to be from your bank, HMRC or a deposed Nigerian Prince* are not really acting within the letter of the law anyway, so are these new rules going to have a huge effect?
And in any case, although the new rules come in next month, they may take some time to find their teeth. The ICO has already stated that it will not take action against non-compliance provided a website owner can show it is “working towards” compliance in the unquantified “short-term”. Besides, how are you going to find him to fine him if he's living in exile somewhere just waiting to regain his crown...
* Come on. Who fell for this one? Clearly someone must have, else they wouldn’t still be doing the rounds. We won’t laugh. Much.